Learn about Space Exploration, God Particle & More at SUNY Potsdam Academic Festival

04.01.13

Visitors can get a glimpse into the universe at the 2013 SUNY Potsdam Academic Festival, thanks to presentations from guest scientists—including several accomplished alumni. The theme of this year’s festival is “Making the Future.”

Find out about the search for black holes, monitoring Mars from the Curiosity Rover, how the Moon was formed and has been shaped by impacts. Learn about how aerogels can insulate equipment and collect space dust from passing comets, as well as what all the fuss surrounding the discovery of the Higgs Boson is all about. You can even view lunar samples up close.

“There is always great interest on campus when the lunar samples are here, and very good turnouts by the general public when we offer planetary geology events open to all. With an entire afternoon session devoted to extraterrestrial places, along with a showing of the lunar samples on loan from NASA, we hope to have a large audience from both the campus and community,” said event organizer Dr. Robert Badger, who is chair of the College’s Department of Geology.

The “Making the Future” campus celebration includes a variety of lectures, panel discussions, film screenings and keynote speeches, which are all free and open to the public. For the full schedule, visit www.potsdam.edu/academicfestival.

The visiting scientific speakers include:

• Charles Hailey is the Pupin Professor of Physics at Columbia University. His research focuses on experimental high-energy astrophysics and particle astrophysics. Using a novel approach to fabricating X-ray optics, his group built and calibrated the hard X-ray telescopes for NASA’s NuSTAR mission, which launched in June 2012. It will detect dark matter and hunt down black holes. In addition, the gaseous antiparticle spectrometer that Dr. Hailey built is currently in the high altitude, orbiting the Earth, to survey the regions surrounding the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Hailey will present “New Eyes Probing the Universe: NuSTAR, ‘The Black Hole Finder Mission,’” on Thursday, April 11, from 10 to 11 a.m. in Kellas Hall Room 104.

• Daniel Krysak ’08 is the missions operations specialist for Malin Science Systems, NASA. After earning his bachelor’s degree in archaeology and speech communications, with a minor in geology, from SUNY Potsdam in 2008, Krysak went on to study planetary geoscience at the University at Buffalo. Today, in his work at NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, he commands the four main science cameras on the Mars Rover Curiosity. Krysak will discuss “Journey to Mars: The Rover Curiosity,” on Thursday, April 11, from 1 to 2 p.m. in Kellas 106.

• Ryan Zeigler ’98 is a planetary scientist and Apollo sample curator for NASA. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in geology and history from SUNY Potsdam in 1998, he went on to graduate work at Washington University, where he earned his master’s and Ph.D. He studies the geochemistry and petrography of lunar samples to better understand how the Moon formed, and how impacts have altered its surface. Zeigler will speak about “Earth’s Moon: What we have Learned since the Apollo Missions,” on Thursday, April 11, from 2 to 3 p.m., followed by a display of lunar rock samples on loan from NASA from 3 to 4 p.m., both in Kellas 106.

• Steven Jones ’85 is a staff scientist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his B.A. in chemistry from SUNY Potsdam, and went on to Clarkson University, where he completed a B.S. in physics, as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemistry. He went on to develop the aerogels for the STARDUST and Mars Rover missions, and is now working on the Project Prometheus Program, part of the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter project. Jones will speak about “Space Exploration Applications of Aerogels” on Thursday, April 11, from 4 to 5 p.m. in Kellas 106.

• Steven Blusk ’88 is a professor of physics at Syracuse University, where he researches experimental particle physics. A double major in mathematics and physics at SUNY Potsdam, Blusk went on to earn his master’s and Ph.D. in physics at the University of Pittsburgh. Before coming to SU, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Rochester. He is a member of the Experimental Particle Physics Group, supported by the National Science Foundation. He is particularly interested in one of the largest scientific discoveries in the last 100 years—the Higgs Boson, sometimes called “the God particle,” which was identified at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland last year. Blusk will present “God Particle: The Higgs Boson,” on Saturday, April 13, from 10 to 11 a.m. in Kellas 104.

For more information about the 2013 Academic Festival, visit www.potsdam.edu/academic festival.

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.